ATHENS – The first touchdown of Mecole Hardman’s career, the first of what could be many, had just occurred, and his Georgia football team had won easily. And yet Hardman knew would be talked about was the pass he didn’t catch.
He is an intriguing and dynamic option for Georgia’s offense, a former five-star recruit who was moved to offense this year in an effort to give the team a spark. Hardman is fast. He can get open and once the ball is in his hands he can do plenty with it.
The emerging question: Whether he can actually catch it.
There was a high-profile drop last week at Notre Dame, a deep ball that could have been a touchdown. There was another drop in Saturday’s 42-14 win over Samford, a shorter route, but still one Hardman should have hauled in.
“I’m not one to make excuses. Every ball I drop I’ve got to catch them,” Hardman said. “I’ll go back on film and see why I missed it, and why I did. And the week in practice I’ll work on those types of balls and just hope I get better at catching them.”
That was during a postgame media session. Hardman then went to his phone and tweeted out more for emphasis.
“Drops Drops Drops,” Hardman posted, followed by a couple emojis. “Don’t worry I’m going to get right. I PROMISE .. just be patient with me.”
Hardman is relatiavely new to receiving: He played quarterback in high school, along with some defensive back, then spent last year, his freshman year at Georgia, in an aborted attempted to play cornerback.
This spring he was moved to offense, and the ball has been put in his hands several different ways: He has run the ball out of the Wilcat, gotten the ball on another run, and is now the team’s second-leading receiver on the young season, with six catches for 40 yards.
Terry Godwin, the team’s leading receiver, knows a bit about the transition Hardman is making. Godwin was also a quarterback in high school, but he was put at receiver from the start of his career, and now as a junior is making highlight-reel catches, like last week at Notre Dame.
“He’s a young kid and he’s just got to get the feeling for the game,” Godwin said. “It’s just his third game at receiver. So it’s just going to give him a little time to get used to the speed, and used to the flow of things. I feel like he’s coming along real good, and these next couple of years, and these next couple of weeks, he’s going to be a major guy.”
To be fair, Hardman wasn’t the only player to have a case of the dropsies. Sophomore tight end Charlie Woerner did too on Saturday.
Head coach Kirby Smart said he has to be “careful” with players who drop passes, wary of derailing their psyche.
“I’m not exactly the most positive person out there when they drop them,” Smart said.
And in Hardman’s case, Smart put emphasis on the sentence: “He’s got to catch the ball.”
But there is also a reason Hardman is on the offense in the first place. The team needs him there, and believes he can be a big part of the offense.
“He’s a good player, and we think he’ll get better with more and more confidence,” Smart said.
Indeed, all this shouldn’t overshadow what was a good moment for Hardman in this game: The 5-yard touchdown catch from Jake Fromm, the first score of the game, with Hardman hauling in the out patter pass and getting a foot down before going out of bounds.
“It felt good just to get it out of the way. Kind of got my feet wet,” Hardman said. “Hopefully I have more in store for the rest of the year.”